Reid: Obama’s Speech “A Game Changer”. But Who Is Changing?

By Gorman Gorman

Sep 10, 2009 2:04pm

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports:

While Republicans are accusing the President of disingenuousness in his speech last night, Democrats are gushing.

"I think it's fair to say that the president's speech was really a game changer," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "An amazing performance," said Sen. Dick Durbin. "A tour-de-force," said Sen. Chuck Schumer.

But while Reid said the game has changed, he admitted there is no evidence that health reform efforts have any supporters this morning that they didn't have last night.

Reid pointed to other legislation passed narrowly by Democrats this year, notably the stimulus, which got three Republican votes. And he said he is hopeful there are Republican votes hiding out there somewhere. But he didn't seem to know where they're hiding.

"We're working on very narrow margins here," he said. "We want to continue on the road of bipartisanship that we've traveled so far, and there are Republicans that are out there willing to help us.  I'm confident of that.  If they're not, then we can always go to reconciliation, which we don't want to do.  That's our second choice."

And there was some indication that Reid and Democrats might be doing some changing themselves. Reid said there are different ways to define what a public option is. 

"I think that the public option is in the eye of the beholder.  There are different types of public options. We're going to look at all of them," he said.

Asked about the co-op plan suggested by Sen. Kent Conrad and Sen. Max Baucus, two Democrats in the bipartisan "gang of 6" negotiators, Reid seemed to indicate that even the co-ops could be considered a public option.

He's not alone there. In a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Sen. John McCain, who said the co-op proposal – to create a series of non-government, non-profit entities to compete with the private insurance industry – is the same as any other public option.

"You can call it the government option, you can call it the co-op, you can call it a banana, but the fact is, is it government intervention into the free marketplace which will lead to crowding out, which will over time — over time will lead to government control of health care in America," said McCain on Tuesday.

Reid said today that anything that provides competition for the insurance industry – "the only business in America except for Major League Baseball that isn't liable to anti-trust law," he said – could potentially be considered a public option.

And on VP Biden's prediction on GMA this morning that there should be votes on health reform by Thanksgiving, Reid offered no opinion except to say he wants to finish earlier than that. "Senator Biden's been in the Senate a lot longer than I have," said Reid, flubbing the VP's title, but correctly recalling that Biden spent much more time as a Senator than Reid has.

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